Archives: June 2006

Event: Michigan Healthcare

Back in the States, Tom is appearing at the annual membership meeting of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association at Mackinac Island. There are three slides presentations:

Michigan Healthcare Final
MI Healthcare Longer Web Version
MI Healthcare plus 209 Irreducibles

Notes on the News of the Day

Glad to see Arcelor was eaten by Mittal, given the unseemly nature of the process. Glad to see the Arcelor CEO, Guy Dollé, got the boot—good riddance to a racist pig. On the other hand, consistent with TP long-time biases about giant mergers ... what precisely is the point of a $70 billion steel company?

FT reports that Gates + Buffett = Biggest philanthropic enterprise ever (in terms of size as a share of GDP). Gates + Buffett = WOW! (Moreover, BG fleeing Microsoft at the right time—sorry, couldn't resist.)

More "hats off." FT also reports on NYC health commissioner, Dr Thomas Frieden: "How New York Took the Lead in World Action on Health." Frieden made the news for banning smoking in bars, but the FT singles out his equally aggressive efforts on AIDS, obesity and diabetes.

Reminder to Self

Narrow Road for Morning's Walk

Didn't listen to music (Queen) this morning when I walked. Instead my mind was hard at work on today's gig. Reminder to self: Take a pen and scrap of paper on walks. (I know some of you will be revolted by this. Tough.) (Hyde Park a mess—The Who are coming next week, prep in progress.) (Love Hyde Park. CORNWALL better.)

Event: B2B

Event of the day: London. B2B Portfolio—"exhibition organisers." You can get the slides for downloading here:
B2B Portfolio, Final Version
B2B Portfolio, Long Web Version

Life Amongst the Cousins

Coastal Path

2.5 absurdly good days in Cornwall. The incredible town of Portloe. [Photo below.] Hiked about 20-25 miles (about 5, 12, 6 I figure), hiked until 10 p.m., up and down the whole time. About zero fellow hikers. (Only about 1,000 vertical feet—not the Sierras or Maroon Bells.) Pasties. A great little hotel, the Lugger—their fresh fish (John Dory on Sunday night) lived up to its billing. Lovely conversations at the likes of shops the size of a postage stamp—also the local Post Office.

Work totally out of mind, thence very rough "return to civilization"—even though it was but a stretched weekend. No cell phone coverage! No Internet! Great trains! Joy to the world!

I feel completely at home in Britain, having been visiting for 40 years, since 1966, when I came over on a U.S.N.-R.N. midshipman swap—served aboard HMS Tiger, a cruiser. Well, not completely at home—which is great. Am completely comfortable—but also enjoy the cultural differences of a "foreign country"—even if it is "the cousins."

Stayed in Portloe

Actually, True Everywhere

I'm willing to go on and on about my comfort in England, but the simple truth is that I feel at home/among friends in Johannesburg. And in Oman and Saudi. In Siberia, and Romania. There are surely places I'd rather return to than others—but the quality of the friendship is close to equal. And I do mean friendship, not just being "well received."

Tip-from-the-Road #6,381

Never too late to learn! Away for the weekend hiking. Packed very light. Very. Forgot a hairbrush or comb. Dinner at hotel restaurant. No shops. (Understatement.) Solution (guys only?): A clean (emergency) toothbrush! Takes a while, but worked to a level that perhaps could be called "satisfactory."

(Hey, I thought it was pretty clever.)

A Clear and Present Danger to Society

Yes "he" did. "He" actually said, "That's a very diverse team." "His" 7-member executive committee has ... two Indians. "His" 14-person Board of Directors has one woman—not an exec.

"He"/"Him" is Patrick Cescau, CEO of Unilever.
(About 85%+ of "his" products are bought by ... WOMEN.)

Could "he" have ... actually ... said: "This is a very diverse team." [My italics.] It would have been an incredible statement without the "very." With the "very" it "very much" suggests a psychiatric session or two might be in order—or at least he should have to say it in front of his wife at a "very" public gathering.

[Source of quote: Financial Times, 24-25 June.]
[See brief PP attached.]

Devils and Deep Blue Seas

My head is spinning. And I have no idea how it happened, really. Truth be known, I'm a slow reader. (I browse professional stuff fast.) Hence, "read at one sitting" is a foreign concept. But I managed to do it twice in one weekend, both times with books I picked up on the fly last Friday at Hatchards in London.

I often disagree with Financial Times "management guru" (how she hates the term) Lucy Kellaway. The world—perhaps the world of "management gurus" more than most—is awash in fools; still Mme Lucy's level of cynicism borders, for me, on repellant. (Like Scott Adams' Dilbert. Of course he brilliantly satirizes commonplace workplace stupidities—but his view is so dark as to be paralytic.) Hence I picked up LK's business satire, Who Moved My Blackberry, with little enthusiasm (simply thought I should take a look)—but with the foreknowledge of 8 hours on a train in the next 3 days. Actually, I bought it with a subconscious desire not to like it.

My worst expectations were confirmed as I dove in. I love good satire (the sort the Brits specialize in—think Evelyn Waugh); but this was silly satire—and of course good satire is anything but silly. But ...

But I kept "reading on." And then I couldn't stop. Stopping on my Cornwall hikes for a 5 min break, and pulling out the sweat-soaked book. On the pot—the ultimate accolade. And then I was done—and bereft that it was over. I could have delightfully imbibed another 375 pages of the life and tawdry times of Martin Lukes. (Lukes is the hapless protagonist; in fact the book purports to be his autobiographical musings: Who Moved My Blackberry, by Martin Lukes with Lucy Kellaway—as you can see, the satire begins on the cover.) In short, I loved the book. The "satire bit" is lovely—more important, Ms Kellaway exhibits that rarest of literary traits, the ability to create a compelling character, and to make one feel some empathy for a complete cad.

(On the other hand I do wonder just a little bit about LK's colleagues at the FT. Martin Lukes is an Olympic misogynist—where did Kellaway get the inspiration for that?)

On the other hand ...

Perhaps part of the reason I stuck so assiduously with Kellaway was pure, unadulterated relief from my parallel reading experience: A Woman in Berlin, by anonymous. It is unequivocally the most devastating book I have ever read. "Anonymous," whose name is actually known and who died in 2001, provides us, in 300pp, with a moment by moment (almost literally) diary of the life of a German woman-civilian in Berlin from 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945, as the Russian occupation began with a matchless display of inhumanity. (Well, matchless save Hitler and his thugs.) The book makes Stephen King feel like a humorist. It is horrible. Horrible. Simply horrible. (Okay Lucy K, I guess I better understand the sources of unmitigated cynicism about all things human.) The horror unfolds, second by second, minute by minute. I read the book in, effectively, one sitting—but the sweat rolled off me and the words adhered to me as I read—I'd swear it took me 2 months to read (the time covered in the book) rather than the actual 8 or 9 hours.

I am woefully incapable of accurate description. The following couple of blurbs will have to suffice: "One of the essential books for understanding war and life."—A.S. Byatt. "One of the most extraordinary and moving books I have read."—Antonia Fraser. "... both an important work of social history and a remarkable human document"—the Independent on Sunday. "Among the most chilling indictments of war I have ever read. ... Everybody ought to read it."—Arundhati Roy. "Reading A Woman in Berlin in one afternoon is an unnerving sensory experience: the walls close in, the air thickens ... It leaves a deep scar."—Simon Garfield, the Observer.

I can't say I recommend the book in the ordinary sense of that word. I can say you might consider reading it—but you must have fortitude to do so.

"Them" v. "Us"+

Two more Special Presentations. The first summarizes my view of the world—and how it contrasts with conventional wisdom (more or less—I admit I caricature the "bad guys" somewhat. [Them v. Us]

Speaking to a Small (SME, actually) Biz group today. The Special Presentation is (more or less) what I've learned—personally—about small business in the last 25 years of struggle. [TP Lessons] (Though as of 30 June I will have scored 98 consecutive profitable quarters—every one since birth. Knock on wood!).